It is a truth universally acknowledged that romance receives a lot of hate.
Recently I saw someone comment about romantic fiction; something to the effect of, “When you read romance books, you’re committing adultery.”
I rolled my eyes, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard that argument. Probably won’t be the last. In this Fantastic Romantic Fiction series, I’ve answered to the best of my ability the common critiques romance receives as well as presented a primer.
My hope is I’ve given a fresh perspective about a genre I love.
To end this series, I wanted to share insight from two authors.
‘I didn’t know what I was getting into’
Outside of Travis’s wife, I am Travis’s biggest cheerleader. I have a great deal of respect for him. He’s been a blessing to me as a brother in Christ and as a fellow author. He and I, along with three others, created a romantic fiction series. I’ve asked him to share his thoughts about the experience. 1
1. Why did you want to experiment with writing romantic fiction?
Travis Perry: I have enjoyed stories with strong love interests. I didn’t understand the difference between a romance and a story with a love interest. The other reason is that romance sells better than speculative fiction. I wanted to get in on those romance dollars.
2. What did you learn about writing about romantic fiction that you didn’t know before?
Travis Perry: Flirtation and building expectation are essential commodities of the genre. My initial idea was two characters find something in common and fall in love. Romancing the Stone (1984) is a good example. The movie is an adventure. Romantic fiction is about relationship-building.
3. During our time working on this project, I critiqued your draft and provided some suggestions to add stronger romantic elements. How was that experience for you?
Travis Perry: Details about attraction, flirtation and romance building are elements I’d seldom used. When you went over the draft, you included details about physical attributes, thoughts, and internal narrative. I focused on other parts like dialogue and plot development.
4. We released the series. What were some things you gathered from the experience?
Travis Perry: I’ll share the following:
- I should have used a pen name for writing out of genre. The crowd who followed my work knew me for my military and sci-fi work.
- As a group, we included fantasy, sci-fi and romance and ended up offending all three sects of readers. Also, the covers did not attract the readers we were looking for. We should have created a more romantic storyline and covers that matched it.
- We imagined that putting three genres together, thinking we’d attract all three categorical readers, but that didn’t happen. We should have simplified the stories.
- Romance dollars don’t come as easy as you think. Some speculative fiction writers believe romance is a pile of money you only have to pick up and grab, but that’s not true. Writing romance takes a certain skill set. It’s not easy.
I agree with Travis: we made some choices that didn’t pan out. But neither of us would call it a failure. If anything, we learned what not to do.
‘I use the Bible as a guideline’
My second author is Suprina Frazier.2
What can I say about my beautiful friend? She loves the Lord, and she doesn’t have any issue with adding sex and sensuality in her Christian fiction books. Her primary works are contemporary romance, but I reached out to her for this interview because she has a unique perspective I felt should be shared.
1. As an author who has written sex scenes in her Christian stories, what kind of opposition have you faced?
Suprina Frazier: I faced a lot of opposition from Christians. Realizing they are coming from their own interpretation of what is clean, I don’t vilify them. I’ve learned not to let other people’s interpretation be mine. One well-meaning Christian told me I wrote unclean books. In response, I took her to the book of Acts, to Peter’s vision, and showed her how the Lord admonished Peter for calling what he called clean, unclean. God created sex. It’s people, not God, who make it ugly.
The things you may call unclean are what God wants me to use to reach somebody. God has made me fearless in this path. He told me I am going to write what He tells me to or not at all.
Someone else’s displeasure can’t move me, only His.
2. What are the boundaries you use when crafting sensual scenes?
Suprina Frazier: I talk about whatever God gave me permission to talk about in the Bible. If you go to Song of Solomon, Chapter 4, the groom describes the woman and her body. He pans down from her hair, eyes, teeth, neck, and breasts. My love scenes are steamy, but tasteful. In the Song of Solomon, the groom discusses her face, her lips, her breasts, thighs. This is the permission God has given me.
3. How can you compare the intimacy of husband and wife with the intimacy with God?
Suprina Frazier: With intimacy between a husband and wife and intimacy with God it’s knowing a person like no one else does and should. No one else should know your husband or wife like you do. Likewise with God, there are things we trust God with to be completely naked with Him. When all our sins are laid bare, and He knows all about them. It’s undressing your soul before the Lord. Intimacy with God is greater than intimacy with your spouse.
4. If an author wanted to dip their toes in this volatile area of edgy Christian fiction, how would you advise them?
Suprina Frazier: I would tell the author to do a study in the Word of God. Start in Song of Solomon, but you can look at other instances where God refers to a man and woman becoming one. “He went into her.” “He knew her.” and other phrases. Be prepared to deal with those who will object.
The Creator of romance
My confusion remains why Christian authors and readers have such a hatred of romance. It’s strange. When God describes His relationship with the Church, He calls us his “bride.” As my author friend David Bergsland recently said to me, “When God talks about knowing us, it’s using the same term of an intimate relationship with a husband and wife.”
God is the creator of romance. He’s as crazy about love as we are. This doesn’t mean that he loves so blindly that He lets us do whatever we want. That wouldn’t be genuine love. Love has conditions.
Travis mentioned romance isn’t just two people falling in love. It’s relationship building. When you first fall in love, you can’t get enough of your sweetheart. You long to be in his or her presence all the time.
When we fall in love with our Lord, for new Christians, we bask in His love for us. He came to our rescue, a knight in shining armor, and carried us away from the dragon.
Committing to each other, a couple’s love grows as they experience life. Marriage, children, sickness, career changes, finances, and more. Each segment works to build the couple together. Romance explores this.
Committing to God, our relationship thrives as we experience life. The ebbs and flows of everything above and more. Our love for Him deepens the longer we get to know Him.
In the article “Meet 105-year-old man and 96-year-old wife who have been married for 79 years,” we hear of a couple who have spent nearly eighty years of happily ever after together. Through it all, they had each other.
It makes me look forward to the day when our happily ever after comes, when we reach Heaven and bask in His presence. We’ll be surrounded by His love for all eternity as we partake of the marriage supper and cement our relationship as His bride forever.
Ah! Isn’t that romantic?